Changes in the brain could be an early warning sign of Parkinson's disease, years before the physical symptoms of the disease began, new research has revealed.
Studies of a small number of high-risk patients have shown that the level of chemical serotonin in the brain decreases for 20 years or more before trembling, speech problems or other typical symptoms appear.
The research team at King's College in London now believes that their findings may lead to new screening tools and treatments after further, more extensive studies have been conducted.
According to the NHS, Parkinson's is a neurological disorder in which parts of the brain are increasingly damaged over many years.
It is estimated that 1 in 500 people in the UK are affected by this condition.
According to the NHS, the three main symptoms of Parkinson's disease are involuntary tremors, slow movements and stiff and inflexible muscles, but also depression, memory disorders and sleep disorders are common.
Although there are treatments to help alleviate the main symptoms, no cure for the disease is currently known.
Traditionally, it is believed that the disease is related to a chemical called dopamine, which is absent in the brain of people with this disease.
"Dopamine plays an important role in regulating body movement, and reducing dopamine is responsible for many symptoms of Parkinson's disease," explains the NHS.
Parkinson's disease does not seem to have a known cause most of the time, so individuals affected by the disease are not screened before their symptoms appear.
However, the research team at Kings College London believes that the results published in Lancet Neurology suggest that changes in serotonin levels in the brain may serve as early warning signs.
The researchers studied the brains of 14 people from villages in southern Greece and Italy, all of which have rare mutations in the SNCA gene, so they are almost certain to develop the disease.
Half of the study group had already been diagnosed with Parkinson's and the other half had not shown any symptoms.
By comparing their brains with another 65 patients with Parkinson's disease and 25 healthy volunteers, the researchers were able to detect early changes in the serotonin level in patients aged 20 to 30 years.
The lead author of the study, Professor Marios Politis of King & # 39; s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, told the BBC, "Our findings suggest that early detection of changes in the serotonin system may open doors for new development Could open therapies that slow down and ultimately prevent the progression of Parkinson's disease. "
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What is Parkinson's disease?
Dr. Emer MacSweeney, consultant neuro-neurologist at Re: Cognition Health, says that Parkinson's disease is a chronic neurological condition that is progressive, meaning that symptoms worsen over time.
About 145,000 in the UK have a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. The disease is slightly more common in men and more common in older adults. However, it can also affect younger adults.
What causes Parkinson's disease?
"There's a lot of research into Parkinson's disease to determine why people get this disease, and new treatments are being developed to treat the symptoms," explains Dr. MacSweeney.
"Parkinson's is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors." Basically, people with Parkinson's disease do not have enough dopamine, a chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter and allows certain nerve cells to send important signals to other nerve cells.
"In Parkinson's patients, there is a loss of control over voluntary exercise due to a loss of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine," she adds.
Get a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease
According to Dr. MacSweeney can make the diagnosis quite a complex process right now, as the symptoms vary from person to person and many diseases can mimic the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
That's why this latest discovery of potential early indicators of brain changes could be so useful.
"As with any neurological disease, early diagnosis is essential to ensure the best possible treatment and alleviate the symptoms, especially as they progress," explains Dr. MacSweeney.
"Speech therapy, exercise, physical therapy and occupational therapy are some of the therapies that can help individuals manage the symptoms of Parkinson's disease."
What are the early signs of Parkinson's disease?
"Motor symptoms such as muscle stiffness, tremors, involuntary shaking, and slowness of movement are all early signs of the disease, and symptoms often start on one side of the body," Dr. MacSweeney.
Other important signs of Parkinson's include:
• Balance disorders
• A facial expression change that may include prolonged gazing and no blinking
• Discomfort, numbness, tingling or pain in the limbs and neck
• Frozen or painful shoulder
• Limping or pulling the leg while walking or shuffling
• Do not swing an arm while walking
• A weakening of the voice, blurred speech and difficulty swallowing
• Reduced sense of smell
• Poor posture that may include bending over
• Small handwriting
Mental health and Parkinson's
"Depression, anxiety, hallucinations and memory disorders are some of the mental illnesses that can occur in Parkinson's patients," explains Dr. MacSweeney.
"They also have an increased risk of developing Parkinson's dementia, which accounts for approximately 2% of dementia cases in the UK."
People with mental health problems must consult a doctor to deal with their symptoms and to treat them.
– This article first appeared on Yahoo